Today I am super pleased to introduce you to the lovely Carla Caruso. Carla was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day, Cleo and Shop Til You Drop.
These days, in between writing romantic comedy novels (sometimes with a touch of cosy mystery), she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian. Her books include the ‘Astonvale’ rom-com mystery series (kicking off with A Pretty Mess), Catch of the Day, Starcrossed, and Cityglitter.
She’s also an editor of the Romance Writers of Australia journal, Hearts Talk, and writes a monthly column for the Australian Romance Readers Association. Plus, she’s obsessed with running, horoscopes, fashion, trashy TV, and cats.
Welcome Carla! We’d love to hear about your Story Behind the Story.
A friend recently commented that I often write fish-out-of-water tales. And it was a revelation for me.
I knew I’d written a novel or two about heroines who were thrown outside of their comfort zones, but I hadn’t realised it was a common thread through pretty much all of my stories.
It began with Mommy Blogger (for US publisher Eternal Press), which surrounds a child-free singleton who pretends she has a baby in order to secure a mummy blogging gig, and is plunged into a world of ‘mumpreneurs’, play cafes and mum-and-bubs yoga.
In Cityglitter (for Penguin’s Destiny Romance), my heroine is half-fairy, half-human and has to keep her wings ‘under wraps’ in her new city home. For Christelle, there’s a constant battle between being true to herself and trying to project a certain image.
In Catch of the Day (Penguin), a fashion editor is banished to coastal South Australia to set up a beach lifestyle magazine after a regrettable incident at the office Christmas party. She’s determined to get back to Sydney within two months, but must try to fit in amongst the close-knit local community in the meantime.
And on it goes…
The reason, I realise, I’ve written a lot of fish-out-of-water tales is simple. Because I’ve often felt like an aquatic creature on land myself.
Firstly, there was being an Italian-Australian kid at a very Aussie, very blonde primary school. I remember one kid asking what country I was born in and when I said ‘Australia’ (though it was true), they told me I was wrong, and to try again. I also recall being picked to stand at the front of the class during a SunSmart presentation as an example of an olive-skinned kid who’d need the barest of sunscreen (compared to the others wearing hats, zinc, long sleeves etc.) Having no trouble getting a tan was a virtue later in life, though!
Again I felt like a fish-out-of-water as a sheltered city kid who moved to the country as a cub reporter. My first journalism gig was at a rag at the small coastal town of Kingston SE (which, a decade later, inspired my novel, Catch of the Day). For the first time, I had to cook, clean and pay bills for myself (little wonder I dropped a dress size with my culinary skills!). But it was the role that followed, working for a daily, statewide newspaper back in Adelaide, where I most felt like a fish-out-of-water.
In truth, I wanted to be a magazine journalist, not a newspaper one, but there wasn’t much option for the former in Adelaide at the time. Though my parents had always had the paper delivered daily, I only ever read the comics and star signs. So my stomach would tie up in knots every day I worked on the ‘general news’ floor and had to approach the chief-of-staff with my article ideas. (What ideas? I was a kid with no contacts, or clue!). Crime, politics and court cases were not my forte.
So it was a godsend when there was an opening on the gossip column, Adelaide Confidential, and I slotted in, then later moved on to become the paper’s fashion editor. I was much comfier in the ‘fluffy’ features world – styling fashion pages, interviewing celebs and reporting on A-list parties –though hard-nosed reporters scoff at such gigs.
Later, when I moved to Sydney for three years, I felt out of my element again. Though I was working in a similar world, as a features and fashion writer for a weekly mag, it was a lot different doing it on a big-city scale than a small-city one. The parties the media were invited to were a step above in terms of glamour and the calibre of the stars was even scarier. (I interviewed Kim Kardashian and rubbed shoulders with Chris ‘Mr Big’ Noth!)
Some faux pas of mine included awkwardly stepping onto a yacht for a party in a fitted pencil skirt (no mean feat), and at a long lunch, moving a platter stand to make way for a plate, not realising it was actually meant to go on top (der).
Then after living a fairly footloose, fancy-free life, I returned home and discovered I was having twins with my hubby! Talk about fish-out-of-water…
The story theme returns in my short tale in the ebook chick-lit anthology, Winter Heat (out FREE everywhere including Amazon – http://amzn.to/29cxZnE). The heroine is outside of her usual environment, once again, staying in her late grandma’s beach cottage and trying to make something of her screenwriting dreams…
While most people would have felt like a fish-out-of-water at some point in their lives, I bet authors, being sensitive types, would have felt it the most keenly. But that’s okay, because such experiences can later be drawn on and add a ‘human touch’ to our writing.
Six sizzling fun-size chick lit stories…
Wish Upon a Star by Sarah Belle
Abby can’t wait to marry her gorgeous fiancé, Xander – until she realises they’ve never had an argument. How can she expect their marriage to weather life’s storms when their relationship has never truly been tested?
A Friend in Need by Laura Greaves
When her best friend announces that it’s not possible for people in committed relationships to have single friends of the opposite sex, Megan is determined to prove her wrong. But are her feelings for her boyfriend’s best mate, Rye, purely friendly – or is Megan playing with fire?
The Reject Club by Carla Caruso
Tired of being rejected in both her personal and professional lives, Maya has retreated to her grandmother’s seaside cottage to clear her head. The last thing she needs is a man to complicate matters – especially one as alluring as Garrett…
The Getaway by Vanessa Stubbs
When Dominique heads to the Tasmanian wilderness with husband Ricky, it’s a make-or-break weekend for their struggling marriage. Is Ricky the same man she fell in love with – or is rugged Cal what she really needs?
Bad Things Come in Threes by Belinda Williams
First her marriage collapsed. Then she lost her job. Wynter isn’t sure whether she can cope with another disaster. And when Marty enters her life, she doesn’t know whether he’s the best thing to happen to her – or the very worst.
Songbird by Samantha Bond
Washed-up pop star George would do anything for another crack at the big time, and when he discovers talented young singer Annabella he sees his chance. There’s just one problem: Annabella’s feisty mother, Catherine.